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We have all heard the term expatriateexpat for short. If Carol and I decided to leave the wonderful United States of America for whatever reason, we could easily see ourselves becoming expats in Costa Rica.

Six years ago, we made our first visit to Costa Rica with our great friends Tricia and Charlie Smith of St. Mary’s on a trip planned by Tachiz travel agency. They did such a wonderful job, we used them again to plan this special trip to celebrate the college graduation and birthdays of our twin granddaughters, Haley and Morgan Williams. Our daughter Nicole and Haley’s boyfriend, Carter, were also included in our adventures. Tachiz gives you multiple choices for location, hotels, and excursions from which to choose. We took full advantage of the various opportunities they offered and, in many ways, recreated our previous trip.

We flew from Atlanta to San Jose where the owners of Tachiz were there to greet us and drive us the three hours to Tabacon and the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa. At 5,358 feet high, the Arenal volcano overlooks the spa. It is normally covered by clouds, but we were lucky enough to have several opportunities to see it completely during our stay. Arenal was dormant for hundreds of years before erupting in 1968 and destroying the town of Tabacon. It continued erupting periodically until 2010, but thankfully, it currently sits dormant.

The highlight of the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa was the hot springs on the property. We enjoyed the steamy waters thoroughly after our guided morning trips to the hanging bridges and Vernado Cave. We encountered a variety of wildlife on the hanging bridge adventure, including monkeys, eyelash vipers, and a Fer-de-lance viper, one of the 10 most venomous snakes in the world. The Vernado cave was a challenge with lots of vampire bats and their guano, and a number of very tight spaces, some of which were so tight that only three of our group decided to wedge themselves through to experience those areas.

Following our two days under the volcano, we crossed Lake Arenal for another three-hour drive to Monteverde (elevation 4,360 feet) and a guided night walk in the cloud forest. Oscar was our outstanding guide with an excellent flashlight and spotting scope to observe tarantulas, 3-toed sloths, and a striped palm pit viper. As you have no doubt learned and we certainly experienced, there are lots of snakes in Costa Rica!

The next day, we again visited the cloud forest with hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous Resplendent Quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds in the world. While we spotted a nest, we were unlucky and did not see the bird itself. What we did see was spectacular! An abundance of monkeys, a colorful Northern Emerald Toucanet feeding her young, South American coati and agouti, black and crested guan, and many species of hummingbirds.

En route to Manuel Antonio, we participated in a crocodile-and-bird safari boat adventure. While it was a wonderful opportunity to view numerous species of rare birds, the most memorable sight may have been the 15-foot crocodile, named “Osama bin Laden,” we encountered at the mouth of the Tarcoles River. Our boat captain was very brave—some might say “foolish”—and called Osama to the bank so we could get some amazing photos.

Ninety miles north of Manuel Antonio, our driver took us through the town of Jaco, which he said was inhabited by 80% American expats. In Manuel Antonio National Park, a wonderful guide showed us more sloths, toucans, and other wildlife. We thoroughly enjoyed the La Mariposa Hotel where white-face monkeys joined us up close and personal at the outdoor bar. One of them was able to jump onto the bar and steal the entire container of sugar packets. They put on quite a show!             

Of course, seeing how we were in Costa Rica, and Manuel Antonio fronts the Pacific Ocean, fishing was obviously on the agenda. Rudy, captain of the 33′ sportfisher Moonwalker, was interested in accommodating our desire to catch tuna. Twenty miles offshore we were entertained by the antics of a huge school of spinner dolphin. From experience, I know tuna are usually found under schools of dolphin, and this was the case. We immediately hooked a large yellowfin tuna!

Landing that yellowfin was a true family effort. Carter was tasked with catching the first fish, and he fought the fish for some 30 minutes before asking someone else to take the rod. Haley was next and fought the fish for another 15 minutes before I accepted the challenge. In fact, all three of our crew took a turn before we finally landed the 50+ pound yellowfin. We caught two more smaller yellowfin before I told Rudy we’d had enough and returned to the marina.

If you’ve read some of my past travel stories in EIL, you know how much this family loves to feast on fresh fish! That day for lunch and again in the evening for dinner, we savored every morsel of our tuna prepared several different ways by the chef at our hotel. It doesn’t get any better!

As they say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida!”

Costa Rica Revisited originally posted on by Elegant Island Living magazine.

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